Friday, November 6, 2009

Paperless Week 1

Today we will wrap up our first paperless week in fourth block! I hope that my students have learned as much as I have in the past several days. Here's what our paperless adventure has looked like so far:

Setup day - Time to make sure everyone has their blogs ready, Twitter accounts up, and wiki access. Also a chance for more discussion of our classroom as a community and the likelihood that we'll need to be supportive and respectful of each other even more in the coming weeks than we have so far this semester.

1984 Background - Students defined totalitarian society and worked in small groups to identify the most important aspects necessary to maintain complete control over their people. Lists with rationales were posted on the class wiki, and reflections on totalitarianism were posted to personal blogs.

Orwell Bio Day - Students researched the influence historical and personal events on Orwell's writing. They posted notes to their personal blogs and Tweeted about significant events. We collected the Twitter posts to create a timeline at TimeToast.

Catch-up and Evaluation Day - Because of technical difficulties earlier in the week, some students needed some extra time to complete Tuesday and Wednesday's assignments. In addition, students provided me with their first impressions of the paperless classroom. See my next post for their comments.

Friday (coming up in a few hours)
Week in Rap - Discussion of current events
Vocabulary Preview - Part 1 vocabulary list with games created at Quizlet
Analysis of Setting - Students will review Chapter 1, paying particular attention to setting, the atmosphere it creates, and the psychological effects it would have on Winston. They'll post analyses to their personal blogs.

What I've Learned
1. This time around, I asked my students to create their personal blogs, Twitter accounts, etc. on their own. I did this in an attempt to be efficient so that we could hit the ground running on Monday. However, among those thirty-five students, I have a wide range of ability levels with regard to technology. Next time, I'll take the class time to walk my students through the steps of creating the accounts they need. That initial time investment should, I predict, help to smooth out our first few days and help the students to feel more confident with these new tools.

2. It is always important to have a positive relationship with your school's computer support team members. Know their names, be kind to them, be as specific as possible when describing a problem, and ask for help rather than demanding. If you do this, then when you're ready to go paperless they will have your back.

3. Be patient and stay positive. The fact is that there will be problems. Sites you need will inevitably be blocked, the wireless may go down, and you're likely to hear your name called ten times as frequently in those first few days. You may go home with a massive headache on days 1-3. But by the time things start running smoothly, you might find yourself feeling a little like the kind of teacher you want to be.

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